Puran Singh Dharamwal, 70, hails from remote hill area of Ramgarh, Nainital, Uttrakhand which is famous as main fruit belt of temperate fruits,off season vegetables and potato.He is son of a small farmer having five acres land in hills.His father have been a progressive farmer and initiated modern farming with fellow farmer groups. His father encouraged him to study agriculture and in 1958 he joined Allahabad Agriculture Institute. While departing from Kathgodam for Allahabad, his father advised him to devote his life serving farmers. He completed M.Sc Food Technology course in 1965 and was appointed by Coca Cola Export Corporation as Executive Quality Control. Till now, all his works, projects and plans were aimed at helping farmers directly or indirectly.
The Hill Entrepreneur
After working for one year in above post his father reminded Puran about his wish that he will serve farmers Puran left the job and worked for establishing a Canning Unit in his native place Ramgarh to serve the farmers of the area.It was a challenge to operate the unit in such backward area without support from Government as no facilities were available like now for industry in hills at that time. The unit operated from 1965 to 1974 with orders from Defense and civil market under under brand Filberts. Mushroom growing and canning was also initiated with fellow farmers by the unit.Due to no support from bank unit could not continue and became sick in the year 1975.
Dharamwal after devoting 10 years in the effort to serve hill farmers could not service the unit due to policies of UP Government and difficulties for obtaining bank financial assistance in remote hills fruit growing area. Puran left for developing his lost career and started serving in Himanchal Pradesh more favorable state to encourage farmers and processing development. He developed horticulture development projects in Himachal during 1976 to 1983. After that Cadbury India offered position to him in view of his achievements in Himachal and offered him position to develop a large scale apple processing project in Spore, Kashmir. This project was implemented successfully and contributed in processing of surplus apples and project is still operational by Govt. of Kashmir. He joined Punjab Agro in the year 1984 as Head for initiating processing plant for Kinnow and Tomato Processing in Abohar.Large scale plant of 100 MT/day was implemented in record time of one year in Abohar Punjab and started contributing processing of farmers produce.
Liberalisation of Economy
A joint venture collaboration between Voltas – Pepsi and Punjab Agro was initiated by Dharamwal and task force team by interacting with Ramesh Vengal of Pepsi.
Presentations delivered for the strategic proposal given by Joint venture (Pepsi,Voltas and Punjab Agro) team member of task force including Dharamwal is placed as a case study in Howard Business School.
The main theme of the joint venture and original proposal for liberalization focussed on investment in development of agriculture, export of own manufactured agri products,contract farming, Agro research centre,Village level micro and cottage industries know- how and promotion of technology for new cash crops and post harvest technology of farmers produce.
“We have still not achieved much in farmer’s support system and our farmers are still facing problems of post harvest handling of produce and are able to get only 15 – 20 percent of consumer purchase price of the produce due to inefficiencies in the total trade channels,” he says.
The produce of farmers is auctioned in Mandies and middlemen take the major share of sales prices by adding cost at every stage without any value addition this cost is approx. 30 – 40 percent.. The loss of produce due to improper post harvest handling is 25 -30 percent.
This inefficiency of cost addition without any value addition is very serious problem particularly for perishable produce like fruits ,vegetables, dairy etc.
The Centre’s initiatives
Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries initiated and assigned responsibility to prepare a proposal for helping farmers in growing area in the year 2006. IL&FS and Dharamwal was engaged to prepare a concept, policy and proposal to develop schemes of Cold Chain and Food Park with Ministry support for subsidies for these projects. The schemes were submitted and cleared by the Centre in the year 2008 with Rs 10 crore/grant Subsidy for Cold Chain Projects and Rs 50 Crore grant /subsidy for Food Park projects in growing areas. The subsidy /grant is 75 percent of Technical Civil works and Machinery for difficult areas such as Uttrakhand, Himachal,J&K and North East and 50 percent for all other states. Food Park 30 Projects with Rs 50 crore Grant each (total 1500 crore ) Cold Chain 200 Projects with Rs.10 crore Subsidy (total 2000 crores) is already sanctioned by the Ministry. The contribution of Dharmwal in developing infrastructure in growing areas to handle the farmers produce at farm gate was immense.
Development of Units in Uttarkhand
Encouraged by the Centre’s support Dharamwal established a model cold chain project in Uttrakhand remote fruit growing area Ramgarh with latest IQF technology and 5000 Tons frozen natural products from farmers direct. The project-Biolife Food Ltd was supporting remote hill farmers and providing direct and indirect employment to rural hill youth. He developed Tomato Paste and juice concentrates Plant for processing tomato and temperate fruits in the fruit growing belt of Golapar, Haldwani,Uttrakhand.The farmers were provided know- how and guidance with improved varieties seeds for maximum yield under contract farming. This plant was supporting 1500 farmers and procuring the tomatoes from field of farmers providing best prices all over season. Plant was employing local educated youth.
Negative role of state government, local police and commission agents
The Government of Uttrakhand was not supporting the efforts of Dharamwal in the service of farmers. The Mandi commission agents weree not in favour of these plants and one of the commission agent Satnam Singh allegedly filed a FIR in collaboration with SHO in Rudrapur Police Station. Dharamwal alleges that the commission agent had supplied Green Peas in the year 2013 to Biolife Foods Ltd., with sub-standard material. Although the payments for material supplied to Company is made for the quality accepted. The Company did not make payment for which he had not provided bills and mandi tax documents. The supplier also cheated the Company by supplying sub standard material. The agent with collaboration of SHO Rudrapur Police Station arranged to file a FIR in the personal name of Dharamwal charging him of criminal charges fraud cheating and threatening on July 28, 2015 after a period of 3 years! “ I was not even a director of the company during that period. In any case the company should have the party. But the Rudrapur police did not make the Company a party, another legal lapse. Civil case was converted into criminal one,” Dharamwal rues.
Moreover, a settlement was reached and High court granted stay of arrest and advised police to investigate the case. The investigation officer was informed that the case is mutually settled. However investigation officer without considering compromise as informed to him preferred to file a charge sheet with additional charge of IPC 420. “ This was height of Police misusing the powers. No justice can be expected from such Police in Uttrakhand filing illegal cases against innocent citizen,” he adds.
The case is example of pathetic state of affairs in Uttarakhand. It also highlights Police injustice to a entrepreneur serving the state and playing a role in serving farmers individually which is Government role and many other states Government have developed such projects to support farmers. With this harassment the spirit agri entrepreneurship in Dharamwal vanished he sold shares of both company to save himself from harassment of Police, Commission Agents and Government officials. At the end, local farmers have many things to loose. Dharamwal continues to fight for justice. He says if the culprits are not booked, no entrepreneur will have courage to enter the state with such bad example of law and order situation and such Government functioning.